June 27, 2014
Obama Picks Carolyn W. Colvin to Lead Social Security Administration
Late last week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Carolyn W. Colvin to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA). A longtime government administrator, Ms. Colvin has been the agency’s acting commissioner since February 2013. There will be a confirmation hearing in the Senate Finance Committee and, if confirmed, she would serve a six-year term. The appointment comes at a time when the SSA faces a number of ongoing challenges. Budget cuts at the agency have recently led to field office closures, staff reductions, and service cuts. The budget stress at the agency has been coupled with increased demand for support services as more and more baby boomers hit retirement age.
This spring, Colvin was a featured speaker at the Alliance National Membership Convention in Las Vegas. “We are pleased that a permanent Social Security Commissioner has been nominated. Congress should make Acting Commissioner Colvin’s job easier by fully funding the SSA, so that field offices can remain open, and the people who have earned Social Security benefits are able to access the services they need,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
SAME Act Would Bring Equal Social Security Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses
On Wednesday, the Alliance called on Congress to pass the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). The SAME act would close a current gap that denies legally married same-sex spouses access to full Social Security benefits when they reside in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. “After the death of a loved one, some families are currently going without survivor benefits they have earned,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We are saying that discrimination is never right, and we want to be on the right side of history. Same-sex older couples deserve the same rights as other older couples.” Read the press release athttp://tinyurl.com/qcdqjzx.
Sign the Petition Calling for an End to the Abuse of “Observation Status”
The Alliance has released a new online petition calling on Congress to take action to prevent seniors from being forced to bear high out of pocket health costs due to the misuse of an “observation status” designation during hospital stays. Increasingly, seniors on Medicare are spending multiple days in the hospital only to discover later on that they were never admitted as in-patients and were instead held under “observation status.” As a result, seniors are facing unexpected bills for medications and skilled nursing facility care that Medicare would typically cover for in-patients.
The petition calls on Congress to pass the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (S.569, H.R. 1179), co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate and by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Tom Latham (R-IA) in the House. To sign the petition, go to http://tinyurl.com/lzx3tnk.
Virginia Gov. McAuliffe Vetoes Parts of State Budget in Medicaid Expansion Fight
The budget battle between Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Republicans in the state legislature over McAuliffe’s push to extend health coverage to 400,000 low income Virginians has taken another dramatic turn. After the surprise resignation of Democratic state senator Phillip Puckett threw control of the state Senate to the GOP, Republicans took advantage of their new majority by passing a two-year budget plan that excludes the state Medicaid expansion supported by McAuliffe. In response, McAuliffe has made use of the line-item veto to strike down several portions of the budget and pledged to expand Medicaid without legislative approval. The GOP then used a procedural move on Monday to kill a critical veto that McAuliffe hoped would make it easier to expand Medicaid without going through the state legislature. McAuliffe has pledged to continue his push to expand Medicaid. “We are pleased that we have a governor who has stood his ground and kept the promise he campaigned on,” said Ron Thompson, President of the Virginia Alliance.
Maryland/DC Alliance Holds First Annual Awards Luncheon
On Saturday, Ms. Easterling attended the MD/DC Alliance’s first annual awards luncheon in Lanham, Maryland. The luncheon honored former MD/DC Alliance President Frank Stella with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of work on issues important to current and future retirees. Two other Alliance leaders were also recognized, with former MD/DC Vice PresidentMaria Cordone receiving the Founders Award and Ida Williams-Ward, President of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 1, receiving the Trustees Award.
If Social Security Disability Insurance Made a Difference in Your Life, Tell us how!
The Alliance is collecting stories to share with Congress on the important role Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) plays in the lives of Americans. SSDI provides a lifeline that nearly 9 million disabled workers rely upon to feed, clothe, and shelter their families. “If you or a family member has seen first-hand the value of SSDI benefits, the Alliance wants to hear from you,” saidRuben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. How has SSDI made a difference in your life and your family’s? Please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Retiree Activists Gather at Indiana Alliance Convention
On Monday, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 attendees turned out for the Indiana Alliance Convention in Indianapolis. Coordinated by Indiana Alliance President Elmer Blankenship, convention delegates passed a number of resolutions including a measure addressing climate change. “We must remain vigilant against the Paul Ryan budget in order to keep the promise of Medicare alive,” said Ms. Easterling at the convention.
Maryland/DC Alliance Member James (“Jimmy”) Allen Passes Away
Jimmy Allen, a beloved member of the Maryland/DC Alliance and former President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, has passed away at the age of 71. A committed labor activist, Mr. Allen also served many years as Vice President of the Maryland State/DC AFL-CIO and on the Executive Board of the AFL-CIO Metro Washington Council. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his daughter, Kimberly. “We will miss Jimmy’s sense of humor and kind nature,” said Mr. Fiesta. “He had many friends at the Alliance, and we will always remember him fondly.” For a photo from the funeral service honoring Jimmy, go to http://tinyurl.com/k8xf9ka.